12.22.2008 02:35 PM
Analog antenna problems may force FOX’s WFXT to go digital early

Boston’s WFXT, a FOX affiliate broadcasting on channel 25, may be forced to switch off its analog signal earlier than Feb. 17. A malfunction of WFXT’s analog antenna forced the station to sharply reduce its broadcasting power, prompting about 150 complaints from viewers who can no longer pick up the station.

Gregg Kelley, WFXT’s general manager, told the “Boston Globe” that the antenna might continue to deteriorate, forcing the station to halt analog broadcasts ahead of next year’s deadline. “We may make a decision to just turn it off early,” Kelley told the newspaper.

Because about 95 percent of TV viewers in the Boston area use cable or satellite service, the problem affects only viewers who use indoor or outdoor antennas to pick up WFXT’s analog signal over the air.

Kelley said the problem began last month, when an unexplained power surge damaged the station’s antenna. “We’ve been experiencing since November first some technical issues with our analog antenna,” Kelley said. “We were forced to operate at reduced power.”

The station notified the FCC and began running announcements four times daily to inform viewers of the problem. Engineers at WFXT are studying whether they can safely increase broadcast power or whether the antenna must be replaced altogether. Replacement would mean unbolting the old antenna from its 1200ft-tall tower and then installing a new one.

However, ordering a new antenna would take months. By the time it arrived, analog TV broadcasts would no longer be allowed.

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